Arika‘s Pac-Man 99 is a game that honestly shouldn’t work. The franchise has been an important part of my life for almost 30 years. I play Pac-Man every day, thanks to an arcade cabinet in my house. Collecting power pellets and dodging ghosts seems second nature to me at this point. Pac-Man 99 takes the familiar format, throws in some Championship Edition tweaks, adds in a battle royale flair, and gives us an experience to sink hours into on Nintendo Switch.
Unclear rules make for complicated results
Pac-Man 99 takes a similar approach to 2019’s Tetris 99. Players have the game board in front of them, surrounded by 98 other opponents. Using the right stick changes what kind of player you’ll target with enemy Pac-Man-type characters. Every ghost eaten by Pac-Man sends over an enemy that will heavily slow down your speed. Getting rid of them requires you to eat a Power Pellet. What works so well with Pac-Man 99 is that there is so much strategy to such a simple concept.
Knowing when to go for the attack or when to play defense is the difference between winning and losing. As you progress through the game (and enemies start to be eliminated), matches become chaotic and relentless. The speed on display requires quick maneuvering and might be overwhelming for people who play Pac-Man casually. There’s an addictive pick-up-and-play mentality in Pac-Man 99. It’s difficult to play one match because you’ll want to try to win continuously.
The big issue is that there aren’t clear rules bundled within Pac-Man 99. I’ve learned the mechanics by playing plenty of matches, but it would’ve been better to have a grasp of things before booting it up. A simple tutorial mode or even a written set of rules would’ve gone a long way.
Pac-Man 99’s DLC problem
Although Pac-Man 99 is free, only the base multiplayer mode is included. There are downloadable packs, but they’re unnecessary and sometimes distracting. The DLC consists of single-player modes such as CPU Battle, Score Attack, and Blind Time Attack, while other DLC themes highlight various Namco properties.
Some are cool, but certain ones, such as pastel blocks, are too distracting. Something else feels off about playing a Pac-Man game with Galaga ships. The movement, while the same, still appears off. And while the visual novelty is appreciated, it doesn’t feel like a Pac-Man experience. The same goes with other palette swaps that don’t include Pac-Man and his iconic ghosts. Hardcore fans might find a lot to enjoy with the DLC, but Pac-Man 99 doesn’t need to be a premium experience.
An addictive romp for battle royale and Pac-Man enthusiasts
Pac-Man 99 is destined to become your latest addiction. Whether it’s one match or ten matches in the same session, this is a pure pick-up-and-play title. The legendary Pac-Man gameplay is presented with a modern twist that is sure to leave fans happy. While the gameplay mechanics could have been explained better and the offline modes shouldn’t have been locked behind a paywall, Pac-Man 99 is a fantastic reason to keep booting up your Switch. It’s only been two weeks, and I can’t imagine my Switch without Pac-Man 99 installed.
Release Date: April 7, 2021
No. of Players: 1 player per console, 99 total
Category: Battle Royale, Arcade
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
A review code was provided for the DLC by the publisher.